Dancing in the night by Karlijn My name is Ally, and I live in a funeral home. That is not entirely true of course, but it does explain why I have always had a hard time finding friends. My dad is a mortician, and he owns his own funeral home. We live right above it. The people say my dad is a brilliant mortician. He can make the dead look almost as good as the living. My mom takes care of the paperwork and serves as a hostess, receiving the relatives of the dead people and making them feel as comfortable as possible. At home we do not speak of “the dead”. My dad refers to them as “cadavres”. I once asked him why, and he said that it makes it easier for him to think of our temporary guests as things instead of people, especially when it’s a child. Anyway, I already mentioned I have a hard time finding friends. The kids in school don’t call me Ally, but Morticia (haha, great pun, right?) and either make fun of me or try to ignore me. So when I was little, I was always alone, except on the days that my dad would allow me to help him. Sometimes he would let me wash the hairs of one of the cadavres, or he would let me help picking out clothes for them. That only happened when there were no relatives to make that kind of decisions. I have seen many things you cannot even imagine. Cadavres twitching because of rigor mortis, cadavres moaning when my dad moved them into another position. That happens when the last bit of air is forced out of their lungs. Now I find it funny, but the first time I wet my pants. But you can imagine why the other kids never wanted to play at our house. I guess you can also imagine how excited I was to hear that we would be housing an exchange student from Europe. She had been asked if she would mind living above a funeral home, but she said it would be fine. I was so excited when the bus arrived from the airport. Finally I would have a friend! There were lots of them, but I remember only a few. Charles from the UK immediately started talking to the girls from my school, and Marie Louise from France pointed her nose up in the air and completely ignored all the boys. And then there was Dragomira; Mira for short. Mira was born in a place called Targovia Góra, somewhere in eastern Europe, and it was clear that she was different. Dressed in a long black gown with black boots underneath, wearing a large black hat, and even a black veil and gloves. In the letter she had sent to us, she had already told us that she suffered from photosensitivity, some sort of allergy for sunlight, so that explained her strange clothes, and the fact that she tried to stay in the shade as much as possible. When she saw me, she sort of half smiled and nodded, as if she recognized me, and we quickly became friends. She didn’t like big crowds, popular music or computer games, but she loved ghost stories, exploring deserted buildings and reading medieval histories. She was just like me, except for the photosensitivity and her clothing style. The only strange thing was that she never seemed to sleep. We had put an extra bed in my room, and every night she would get into it, but when I woke up in the middle of the night, like I sometimes do, she would be gone. One time I asked her what she did at night, and she said that she just liked walking around in the dark. I told my dad and he said that it probably had to do with her photosensitivity, that she finally could walk around without hat or worrying about sunlight. One night I noticed she was gone again, and I decided to go look for her. I looked in the bathroom, the kitchen, the living room; everywhere on the second floor, but she wasn’t there. Finally I went down to the first floor, where the funeral parlours are. I heard her hum a strange melody and I followed the sound. I expected her to be in my mom’s office, but the sound came from the chapel! I opened the door, stepped in, and tried to scream. In the middle of the chapel was Mira, dancing the strangest dance I have ever seen. Three cadavres were clumsily dancing in a circle around her. There was no emotion on their faces. Their eyes were open, but they were just staring. Cadavres! Dead people! Dancing! And Mira in the middle in her long black gown, dancing some sort of witches dance. Like I said, I tried to scream, but no sound came from my mouth. My throat refused to let any air out. Or in! And then everything went black. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was Mira, staring down at me. “Aar you allrright?” she asked with her strange accent. I tried to back away from her, crawling backwards on my elbows. “Not be affrrraid. I not hurrt you.” I looked past her at the centre of the chapel. The three cadavres were lying there, as if they had dropped to the floor where they had been dancing. “Oh, wait,” Mira said. She stood up, waved her hands in the air and said something in what I assumed was her own language. The cadavres stood up! Slowly they walked out of the chapel into the hallway and I heard them move away. “I sent them back to rrrooms,” Mira said, as if that would explain everything. I just stared at her, and I’m sure she saw fear in my eyes. “No worry. Am witch, but good witch. Just want dancing.” “But… but…” I stammered,” how…” “I teach you?” she asked. I don’t know why, but I nodded. The rest of the night Mira taught me how to bring life to inanimate objects. I moved chairs, just by concentrating, making magic signs and speaking secret words. I made a table float in mid air. Finally I tried to make one of the cadavres wave his hand, but he didn’t move a finger. “You prractice much. You become good,” Mira said. And so I did. After Mira went back to Europe, I kept practicing. I kept what I was doing hidden for mom and dad. No one else knows about my new skills, except Mira. And you of course, but I know you won’t tell anyone. Mira and I exchange letters at least twice a month. I tell her about my progress and she gives me advice on how to get better. It has been over a year now. I now have friends. I dance with them. Every night.